The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012 – 2022 builds on the last (2002 – 2012) strategy and continues to drive improvements in workplace health and safety. It promotes collaboration between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and unions and other organisations that influence work health and safety and workplaces across Australia.

Four outcomes and seven action areas are identified to help achieve the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives. The outcomes are:

  • a reduced incidence of work-related death, injury and illnessachieved by 
  • reduced exposure to hazards and risksusing
  • improved hazard controlssupported by 
  • an improved national work health and safety infrastructure.

The seven action areas in which actions are required to support the outcomes are:

  • healthy and safe by design
  • supply chains and networks
  • health and safety capabilities
  • leadership and culture
  • research and evaluation
  • government, and
  • responsive and effective regulatory framework.

The strategy also identifies seven priority industries and six priority disorders to concentrate on. Three evidence-based targets measure and evaluate progress:

  • a reduction of at least 20 per cent in the number of worker fatalities due to injury
  • a reduction of at least 30 per cent in the incidence rate of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work, and
  • a reduction of at least 30 per cent in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work.

Questions for discussion

Take a quick look at the Report and identify how it applies to your workplace and work team.


Building high performing work teams

According to Dr Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, high performance team members communicate with each other in three specific ways:

  1. They make six positive statements to every negative statement.
  2. They are very responsive to one another.
  3. They ask questions as much as they defend their own views when they disagree.

Members of low performance teams behave the opposite:

  1. They make less than one positive statement to every negative statement.
  2. They are far less responsive to one another.
  3. They ask few questions to explore different points of view.

The first set of behaviours lead to high ratings for customer satisfaction, profitability and positive evaluations by colleagues. No prizes for guessing what the opposite behaviours lead to!

Discussion questions

What is your work team like? Do they ask questions when they don’t understand or disagree with someone’s point of view? What can you do to encourage more of this behaviour? How can you move your team towards a ratio of six positive statements for every negative statement? How responsive are your team members to each other?

Building your personal brand

What do people think of when your name is mentioned? A smart, strategic thinker? A problem solver? An expert in your field? Do the words ‘trustworthy’ and ‘reliable’ immediately come to mind when people think of you? Or maybe calm, even-tempered, fair-minded or quick-witted describe you?

The unique combination of your expertise, strengths and skills and the adjectives that describe you — what you stand for, what you’re enthusiastic about, your personal values — that’s your personal brand. It describes what you’re ‘about’ and your style — how you do what you do, your ‘modus operandi‘. (Chapter 6 — page 140 of the text — helps you identify your main values.)

A strong and professional personal brand protects your job and helps build your career when it’s backed up by solid performance.  It isn’t built just during working hours, either. Social media can help build (or destroy) your personal brand, so participate in it judiciously. You want your name ‘out there’ but not over-exposed and everything about you ‘out there’ needs to align with your personal brand. Everything.

Your personal ‘moments of truth’, the impression you leave with people no matter how fleeting your encounter, build your personal brand, too, as does smart networking and a good personal mission statement, one or two sentences that describe what you do in an interesting way and makes people say ’Oh really? Tell me more!’.

So what’s your personal brand? How do you want people to think of you? Write this down — these are your goals and the descriptors you need to live up to day in and day out, at work and in your personal life. These descriptors should describe you at your best, not be a version of someone you admire. When they describe you at your best, you can act authentically and people know that what they see is what they get, not an imitation of someone else or a false front they can’t trust.

Once you’re clear on your personal brand, think about what  you can do to enhance it, how you can keep it up to date and how you can show you’re adding to your knowledge, expertise and skills and that you’re growing as a person and as a leader.

Discussion questions

What is your personal brand? What can you do to enhance it?

Why you need to get to know your staff

As a leader, you can’t get to know the varied experiences, skills and talents of your team members without knowing a bit about them as people. Casual conversations help you learn about what makes them tick and discover their potential to contribute now and in the future. It helps you assign work designed to engage them, helps you to help them develop their strengths, and strengthens your working relationships.

Casual conversations among team members help them learn about each other, which builds and strengthens relationships and oils the wheels of goodwill and cooperation. It helps everyone reach common understandings and builds a strong culture.

People getting to know people doesn’t just make the world go ’round. It also makes workplaces, both actual and virtual, tick.

But where do you draw the line at casual, non-work-related conversations? You don’t want people chatting so much among themselves they don’t have time to do their work and you don’t want your chats with team members to prevent them from working either. Set the tone by keeping your chats brief, friendly and professional and make them two-way: listen as well as share.

The content — what you talk about — is important, too. Two over-arching rules apply:

  1. No gossip.
  2. Don’t get overly personal to the point of embarrassment.

Stick to those rules and keep your conversations short and sweet, and watch cooperation and morale blossom.

Discussion questions

How well do you know your team members as people? How much do they see you as a person as well as a boss?

The problem with learning styles

Learning styles can be used as an excuse: ‘I didn’t learn well because the teacher didn’t teach in my preferred learning style’. That type of thinking not only turns learners into passive receptacles of knowledge, it places all the responsibility for learning on the teacher. It’s also wrong.

The word ‘preferred’ in the term ‘preferred learning style’ is why it’s wrong. Just because we prefer to learn in one way over another, for example thorough thinking or through doing, doesn’t mean that’s the only way we can learn.

Writing in the Journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Harold Pashler from the University of California and colleagues conducted a meta study (i.e. they reviewed a large body of research into learning styles, selected the most rigorous studies, and compared their findings) to find out whether learning styes exist and make a difference to learning.

They found that yes, indeed, people have preferences concerning how they like information presented to them. They also found that people have different thinking styles which makes them better at processing some types of information than others; for instance, some people get more information from pictures and others from the written word.

But do people actually learn better when instructional methods mesh with their preferred learning and thinking style? Apparently not. What does help people learn is their critical thinking skills, their study skills and their belief that they can learn the material.

(You can find out more about learning styles in Chapter 26, pages 854 857 and about study skills in earlier blogs, e.g. ‘How to make the most of learning’ posted 8 Feb 2013.)

So know what your preferred learning style is, by all means, and try to accommodate it when you can. But spend more time learning how to learn.

Discussion questions

Are you learning as effectively as you can? What study techniques do you use?

‘Then Get Out’

In June, Lieutenant General David Morrison addressed the Australian public about unacceptable conduct and in particular, conduct that demeans, exploits or humiliates their colleagues. The address was prompted by NSW police and military investigations into a group of male officers and non-commissioned officers whose conduct has brought the Australian Army into disrepute. Lieutenant General Morrison made it brutally clear that those who think that this type of behaviour is “OK … have no place in this army”. The Army must be an inclusive organisation in which every member can reach their potential, he said.

If that does not suit you, then get out.

Everyone, he said, is responsible for the culture and reputation of the Army and its working environment.

If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it.   I will be ruthless in ridding the Army of people who cannot live up to its values …  The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Discussion questions:

  • How important do you think it is that the senior person in an organisation takes a strong stand about behaviour that is, and is not, acceptable?
  • To what degree is every person in an organisation responsible for its culture and reputation, and its working environment?
  • As a leader, what steps can you take to make clear the behaviour you want to see in your team and to develop its culture?
  • In what ways can you and your team protect the reputation of your organisation and its working environment?

How your workspace can boost your productivity


Red makes you hungry; yellow makes you happy; green is calming; blue is authoritative. You can’t argue with the fact that your surroundings affect your mood and your behaviour, can you?

Here are five recent findings from psychology and neuroscience that can help you arrange your workspace to improve your productivity.

Arrange your workspace the way you want it. You don’t have to keep it the way is was when you inherited it. Do whatever you can to make your mark on your workspace, even if you can only add a bulletin board to pin up your own photographs and messages. When your organisation’s policies don’t allow that, the next best option is to have workspaces nicely decorated by someone else, rather than bare and utilitarian.

A (small but interesting) study of 47 office workers in London were up to 32% more productive (in terms of attention to detail, information processing, information management, and willingness to go beyond the basic requirements of the job) when they arranged their small offices with plants and artwork of their choice than the control group, which couldn’t arrange their workspaces to suit their taste. The workers who controlled their workspaces also identified more with their employer and were more committed to their teams.

Choose rounded furniture (when given the choice) in a rounded arrangement. Curves are linked with positive emotions, which benefit creativity and productivity, while sitting in circles encourages cooperative mindsets. Plus, you hurt yourself by knocking into sharp corners and avoid the Me Syndrome produced when sitting in straight lines.

One study found that people find curvy, rounded environments more beautiful than strait-edged environments and that rounded spaces trigger more brain activity in areas associated with reward and aesthetic appreciation.

Choose colours and light wisely. It’s good to be able to adjust the level of light to suit what you’re working on. Low light levels and the colours blue and green have been shown to enhance creativity, and red has been linked with superior performance on tasks requiring attention to detail. Bright light is more conducive to analytical and evaluative thinking.

Use plants and windows. Lots of research has shown how office plants benefit workers by, for example, helping them recover from demanding activities and lowering stress levels; the right plants can even help keep the office air clean.

A view of a natural landscape recharges your mind; failing that, looking out at trees or intricate architecture can help you recharge. If you’re desk isn’t near a window with a nice view, take a stroll in the park to recharge.

Choose your level of tidiness to suit your key tasks. It pains me to say this, but maybe Einstein was right when he said:

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,
of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

Orderly or messy? It seems that sometimes messiness can lead to creativity. If it’s tradition and convention you’re after, though, you are probably better off going with an orderly workspace.

Discussion questions

How can you your arrange your workspace to increase your productivity? How can you encourage your team members to do the same?